A Message To The Pirate Nation
Sept. 11, 2009
There seems to be some confusion in the Pirate Nation about control of television rights and who makes the decisions on game availability. WITN-TV and ECU have a strong partnership agreement to televise as many as four games annually so that Pirate fans who cannot attend in person can still see some of our games. Our mutual goal for the locally televised games is to lose as little money as possible while providing a service to our fan base. We would prefer to televise away games in order to reward our fans who can and do attend our home games with the ability to see more games, but the home team's conference agreement often prevents us from doing so.
In the particular case of Saturday's game against West Virginia, it is important to understand that when WVU joined the Big East Conference, it was required to surrender the television rights to all of its home games to the Big East. The Big East sold those rights to ESPN for tens of millions of dollars annually and WVU receives an equal share of that money whether it is on television or not. ECU does not receive one cent from the televising of the game on West Virginia's home field, and although West Virginia receives a share of the Big East total television contract, WVU itself has no control over what time the game is played or even what day it is played.
Similarly, when East Carolina joined Conference USA, ECU was required to surrender the television rights to all of our home games to C-USA. C-USA sold those rights to ESPN and CBS College Sports for millions of dollars annually and ECU receives an equal share of that money whether we are on television or not. ECU does not have any control (other than "begging and pleading") over what time our home games are played or even what day the games are played.
In a free market economy, ESPN (CBS or whoever) owns the rights and can do whatever it wishes with those games. The rights-holder is under no obligation to let a competitor have the unused broadcast rights inventory, even when the request is from a local area television station like WITN. However, if they are not broadcasting a particular ECU game, most of the networks will allow us to broadcast it on WITN for a small fee.
WITN and ECU attempt to televise four games annually simply for those ECU fans who cannot attend games in person for whatever reason (work, other commitments, etc...). WITN and ECU always hope to break even on these broadcasts, doing them for the exposure and good will as opposed to the money made or lost in a particular year.
Like any agreement, there are positives and negatives for everyone involved in conference television packages.
This season, ESPN will provide three prime-time national broadcasts of ECU games. All ECU fans throughout the country can sit in their homes and watch the Pirates play Memphis, Virginia Tech and Tulsa.
Thank goodness two of those games are away from home and do not create a disadvantage for our ticket holders who may have to juggle their work schedules to be able to attend non-Saturday games played at night (prime time television). If, in return for those three national prime time games, ESPN decides to promote its ESPN 360 broadcasts with one of our games, that seems a relatively small price to pay even though we do not have any say-so in the decision. In addition to Suddenlink locally and some other high-speed internet providers around our area, ESPN 360 broadcasts are available at no charge to every student on any American college campus and all United States-based military personnel.
The ECU administration has made our first priority to do everything possible (within the C-USA television agreement) to prevent our home games from being moved to times and days that are not convenient for those who purchase tickets and attend the games in person. If we could do so, we would televise every away game regardless of how much it might cost to do so, in order to thank the great Pirate fans who attend all home games and who create what is possibly the best game-day atmosphere in college football.
Our second priority is to do all we can to provide access to ECU games for those fans who cannot attend the games in person.
It is my hope that we can all get on the same page and focus on defeating West Virginia rather than worrying about things which none of us control.